*Jazz and Gospel vocalist Debbie Carter celebrates music icon Nina Simone in a one night performance of “Channeling Nina” at the Brooklyn School of Music on November 26. An interpreter of Simone’s music for over 20 years, Carter will make her debut appearance at the historic landmark artistic epicenter of Central Brooklyn.
With the recent resurgence of Simone’s music through the award-winning Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone, and the controversial release of the biopic Nina, Carter is taking her show on the road. “Nina is one of my favorite artists ever,” says Carter.
“I am happy that a new generation is discovering her music and her brand of artistic expression. Just the other day, I was watching Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th and heard Nina’s version of ‘Work Song’ in the film. I am also delighted to hear the new reissues of her music.”
With a diverse range and style, Carter also celebrates 40 plus years in music and entertainment. “Song stylist Debbie Carter has a wealth of musical treasure chest full of life experiences that help her expressions of Nina Simone ring true in a way most others can’t reach,” says Kevin Harewood longtime music executive and co-producer of the Brooklyn School of Music concert. “Isaac Suggs and I are ecstatic about this opportunity to present Debbie Carter in an artistic setting.”
Carter also performs jazz and gospel sets throughout the country and abroad. Her music has taken her to Japan, Egypt and the Caribbean Islands. Carter is a lead soloist in the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir, under the direction of Frank A. Haye. She made her Off-Broadway debut in Thokoza in I Sing for Freedom to rave reviews. The musical included a cappella performances, which Carter led the production’s biggest number of Simone’s classic “Four Women.” “Their music is full of tight harmonies and perfectly blended”, states the New York Times. “Not only does their music sound intricate and effortless, but their banter—a crucial part of the show—does, too. They seem to have the comfort level of old friends, and audiences at their show.”
A songwriter, Carter’s Gospel offerings, “Your Praise Shall Continually Be in My Mouth” and “I Can Do All Things Though Christ,” written and produced by acclaimed musician and songwriter Johnny Mercier were featured on Total Praise Live, a CD project co-produced by the music ministry of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Brooklyn, NY (senior pastor, Rev. Anthony L. Trufant). Both of Carter’s songs were in steady rotation at gospel radio stations across the country and national reviews of her songs were featured in USA Today and other key music publications including Billboard magazine: “‘Your Praise Shall Continually Be In My Mouth’ is a convincing, hand-clapping Sunday-morning gospel.” And the Dallas Morning News described ‘Your Praise…,’ “[Her] performance was reminiscent of an Albertina Walker mid-tempo groove.”
Gwendolyn Quinn: What is it about Nina Simone that you most admired, loved and respected?
Debbie Carter: I love that Nina Simone embraced her blackness and she spoke out against discrimination even when it was not popular. Her expression of song and music translated to other cultures and languages globally.
GQ: What political impact did Nina Simone have on popular culture?
DC: Her political stance was so strong that it still resonates today. Her music is even more relevant today. Who would have thought in the 21st century that we are still faced with many of the same issues and struggles she experienced. I’m witnessing a new generation that is exposed to her music and message. Years ago, when I began to sing interpretations of her songs, I could not find a great deal of her music in the United States. I had to purchase her sheet music from Europe.
GQ: What is your favorite Nina Simone song and why?
DC: That’s a difficult question, but I love and often perform “Four Women,” “Strange Fruit” and “Mississippi Goddam.” They are my top choices.
GQ: As a jazz vocalist, who are some of your favorite artists? And which songs do you include in your set?
DC: I love Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth,” and “What a Difference a Day Makes.” I’m a big fan of Abbey Lincoln’s “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” and Dianne Reeves’ “Testify.”
GQ: Why do you feel jazz music is not embraced by more young people?
DC: Young people are not exposed to jazz. Music is slowly being removed from the school’s curriculum. I also believe that if young people would take the time to listen to some of the jazz lyrics, they could relate more. Personally, I love great lyrics and that’s what draws me to certain songs, as well as the rhythm. Words are very important and the lyrics must have a message.
GQ: Who are some of your favorite gospel artists?
DC: I’m old school. My favorite gospel artists are Mahalia Jackson, Shirley Caesar, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.
GQ: What can your supporters expect from your gospel set?
DC: I’m rearranging my gospel set to include more songs that I have written, such as “Your Praise Shall Continually Be in My Mouth,” “Lord Teach Me Not to Worry, But to Pray,” and other songs from my catalogue, along with a few classics.\
GQ: As a songwriter, how many songs have you written? What is your process for writing and creating songs?
DC: I’ve written over 50 songs. My many life experiences inspire me to write. Once the song is in my spirit, it’s an easier process for me.
GQ: On your next recording, what type of music are you planning to record?\
DC: I look forward to recording a gospel album. It will be an album of all original music. I just need to identify the producer or producers for the project.
GQ: What’s next for you?
DC: I want to live life to the fullest and pay closer attention to where God is leading me. You’re never too old to learn, so I’m open to guidance to walk in my divine purpose with more wisdom and understanding.
For more information on “Channeling Nina” and tickets, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/debbie-carter-channeling-nina-carlton-holmes-3-wsg-rodney-james-quartet-tickets-28560356796.
Gwendolyn Quinn is an award-winning media specialist with a career spanning over 25 years. She is the founder of the African American Public Relations Collective (AAPRC) and the publisher of Global Communicator. Her weekly columns, “Inside Broadway,” “The Living Legends Series,” and “My Person of the Week” are published with EURweb.com. Quinn is also a contributor to Souls Revealed and Handle Your Entertainment Business. Contact her at [email protected].